For women’s full participation in conflict resolution and peacebuilding

An initiative from Kvinna till Kvinna

The Nobel Peace Prize to a man’s world

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We recieved a blog post from Lena Ag, the Secretary General of the Swedish women’s rights and peace organization The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, regarding the decision of giving the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU.

“Three distinguished, senior, white men will go to Oslo December 10 to collect the Nobel Peace Prize. European Parliament President Martin Schulz, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU President Herman Van Rompuy.

They reflect perfectly the power structure within the EU.

All Heads of the EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions are men, as are 73 percent of Heads of EU Delegations. Only two women have ever been appointed as an EU special representative. Just two of the Unions 25 member states have a female prime minister, and of 19 presidents only one is a woman.

The Swedish journalist Jenny Nordberg captured my feeling in her tweet yesterday: “Three white middle aged Western European men will go to Oslo to accept Peace Prize for Europe. That’s my modern, inclusive continent…” @nordbergjenny

Although you can call the EU the world’s largest peace-building project, the Union has a lot left to do to be a worthy winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.I wonder how the Norwegian Nobel Committee reasoned regarding the basic idea of ​​the Peace Prize, that it is supposed to promote disarmament and non-military solutions. Within the EU there are major military actors, including nations with nuclear weapons.

At policy level, there are high aspirations for peace and human rights, but what counts is what is carried out on the ground. Especially considering that last year’s winners, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakul Karman was awarded for their peaceful struggle for women’s security and participation in peace processes. The Nobel Committee noted then that a sustainable peace and democracy can not be achieved as long as women are discriminated against.

Our partner organizations in the Balkans testify to how the EU work is a total failure at this point, despite the enormous resources spent. The EU has a shamefully low number of women in high positions, for example none of the EU’s common peace and security mission, like EULEX in Kosovo, is lead by a woman. And the list goes on. EU and the international community’s failure is evident when studying our latest report, Equal Power – Lasting Peace, that was presented in the European Parliament on October 11th. The report’s conclusions, and the discussions during the conference in the Parliament, show that there is a lot left to be done before the EU implements new strategies, worthy of the Peace Prize.”

“EU should lead by example”

Tags: , , , , , , , Categories: Africa, EU, The Balkans, The Middle East, The South Caucasus

The unique mapping was presented at the conference. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation/Ida Udovic.

The unique mapping was presented at the conference. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation/Ida Udovic.

On October, 11th the Equal Power – Lasting Peace report made by the Swedish women and peace organization The Kvinna till kvinna Foundation on women’s participation in peacebuilding was presented at a conference in the European parliament. Based on the interviews with women-activists from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq, DR Congo and Liberia, the report is a unique mapping of obstacles that keep women in conflict-torn regions from participating in peace processes on equal terms with men.

The Equal power – Lasting Peace conference gathered more than 100 participants, EU and NATO officials and politicians, as well as civil society representatives – in the audience and among the panelists.

The opinions and discussions at the conference were many, all of them though sharing a common stand: something has to be done to increase women’s participation in peace negotiations. The question is how and by whom.

– Women’s political participation and decision-making are the key issues, underlined Ms. Helga Schmid, Deputy Secretary General for Political Affairs at European External Action Service (EEAS).

At her opening speech she mentioned Egypt, where the draft of the Constitution does not make any provisions for gender equality and where there are only six female MPs.

– We focus our assistance in the EU neighborhood to civil society and women’s issues, in particularly legal rights and equal access to decision making and to the power structures. Gender cannot be an excluding factor in the political processes from an early stage of mediation in the process and onwards, said Ms. Helga Schmid.

Gender-blind agreement

Ensuring that gender equality is guaranteed from the very beginning when designing a peace agreement has proven to be a crucial factor for the sustainability of the peace. How bad a gender-blind peace agreement can turn out Alexandra Petric, Programme Director of United Women Banja Luka, BiH, testified on.

– Bosnia and Herzegovina has gone eight years without any women ministers, 17 years without any women members of the BiH Joint Presidency, and 17 years without any women in negotiations about crucial political issues that affect lives of women and men citizens of BiH, such as security sector and constitutional reforms, says Alexandra Petric

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  “EU should lead by example”, The Kvinna till kvinna Foundation’s Secretary-General Lena Ag highlighted in her introduction. While the EU has adopted a comprehensive approach on UNSC resolutions 1325 and 1820 on women, peace and security, the reality reflected by statistics leaves much to be desired. EU’s CSDP operations (operations under the EU’s common security and defense policy) are all led exclusively by men, and only two of EU:s ten special representatives are women, just to name a few examples.

This statistics, says Mr. Olof Skoog, Chair of the Political and Security Committee at EEAS, was a lesson from the day:

– Not a single woman leads our missions. We are choosing the best of the best, but the problem is that member-states are not nominating any women. What we can do is to explicitly ask them to nominate more female candidates, says Mr. Skoog.

NGOs not GONGOs

The topic of giving room to the voices of women from conflict-affected regions was discussed by many of the panelists and raised in questions from the audience. Finding the authentic grass-root organizations can be a challenge when a lot of GONGOs (governmentally organized NGOs) are entering the scene. Still it is crucial in getting a comprehensive understanding of the situation in a region:

– When EU officials are visiting a region, they really need to  seek contact with, and talk to, real civil society organizations, including women organizations, not those who will tell the convenient things that the officials want to hear, says one of the panelists Gulnara Shahinian from the Armenian organization Democracy today.

Slander, violence, corruption and unequal laws are some of the obstacles that keep women from participating on equal terms with men in peace processes, the report shows. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation/Sara Lüdtke.

Women has important role

The role of women’s organizations and women activists in peace processes was stressed by many panelists throughout the conference. Monica McWilliams, one of the signatories of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland dwelled on it at her presentation at the conference, as well as Teresita Quintos-Deles, advisor to the President of the Phillipines on the peace process, who sent her greetings on video, as she herself was occupied with the upcoming peace agreement. Both women provided striking evidence of the importance of women’s empowerment.

Long-term support neeeded

A long-term strategic approach and continuity are what women activists Alexandra Petric and Gulnara Shahinian would like to see from the EU:

– The EU needs to develop strong and coherent strategies to address women’s human rights and gender equality in Bosnia and Herzegovina to address both direct and indirect support of perpetuating ignorance toward these issues by BiH authorities. This requires the EU’s commitment to a long-term support of women and gender equality – specific programs that focuses on the prevention of and fighting against gender-based violence and that underlines women NGOs positions as watch-dogs and partners to BiH government institutions. This would both strengthen women’s human rights in practice and the NGO’s work on empowering women, says Alexandra Petric.

– We would really appreciate sustainable and strategic involvement from the EU. What we see now is that the EU finances short projects, where partnership with civil society has a formal character, says Gulnara Shahinian.

Protests against Egyptian constitution draft connecting women’s rights to Sharia law

Tags: , , , Categories: The Middle East, Uncategorized

The draft proposal of a new constitution for Egypt, has caused fiery protests from civil society and women’s organizations in the country. Last week several hundred people demonstrated in Cairo against the absence of women in the process and against the new Article 36, stating that women’s equal rights should be ensured ”without violation of the rules of Islamic jurisprudence”.

Political and human rights activists in Egypt worry that the proposed wordings in the constitution will curtail women’s rights, since they open for different interpretations by Islamic scholars, reports the Egypt Independent.

The proposed Article 36 reads:

”The state is committed to taking all constitutional and executive measures to ensure equality of women with men in all walks of political, cultural, economic and social life, without violation of the rules of Islamic jurisprudence. The state will provide all necessary services for mothers and children for free, and will ensure the protection of women, along with social, economic and medical care and the right to inheritance, and will ensure a balance between the woman’s family responsibilities and work in society.”

Besides the connection to islamic Sharia law, activists also protest against the recent exclusion of former proposed writings, like setting a minimum age for a woman to be able to marry and banning trafficking.

Alternative constitution

Several demonstrations were held in the capital last week. On Wednesday representatives from civil society organizations, activists and politicians announced at a press conference that they will be drafting an alternative constitution.

- A constitution containing the phrase ‘not to be contrary to Sharia’ and a constitution that limits the rights of certain groups, such as Copts and women, will not be allowed, said Hussein Abdel Ghani from Popular Current, one of the organizations in the group, writes the Egypt Independent.

Women’s movement demanding equal rights

On Thursday women’s organizations organized a demonstration outside the Presidential Palace and handed over a statement in which they called for an equal dividing of seats between women and men in the Constituent Assembly, and for the new constitution to ensure women’s equal rights as citizens of Egypt.

Currently only seven of the Constituent Committée’s 100 members are women. The comittée’s constitutionality has been questioned and is currently being examined by a court.

The statement made by the Egyptian women’s movement

On women’s rights in the Constitution:

  • First, women’s rights are part of the citizenship’s rights.
  • Women gained their rights through historical struggling and they contributed to the 25 Jan revolution where they were scarred and died, just like the men.
  • The constitution identifies the rights and the duties of all Egyptians (male and female ) so all should share in formulating it.
  • Women have been marginalized in the mechanisms for achieving the objectives of the revolution, starting with the poor representation in the parliament  and the Consultative Council, and ending with the founding of the constitution committee.
  • There are many women who are in leading positions and teaching law and constitution at the universities.

Taking all of the above into consideration, and for a Constitution for all Egyptians, the Egyptian women’s movement, which is formed by people from all of Egyptian society and represented by the signatories (she/he)  to this document, is demanding:

Considering the current Constituent Committée lost its legitimacy, since it is under consideration of the judiciary:

Restruction of the committee to represent all of the Egyptian people with membership divided equally between women and men. Adoption of objective and transparent criteria for membership, taking into account the names nominated by different spectra of society.

The articles of the constitution should:

  • Reflect the equality between all Egyptians
  • Confirm the international treaties, like the Elimination on all Forms of discrimination against Women
  • Guarantee the full equality of women and men within each of the following rights: education, employment, health care, health and social insurance, housing, unemployment benefit, and the right of a healthy environment
  • Make sure that the State and the political institutions empower of women in their political representation, in order to achieve a fair representation of women reflect their percentage  in society
  • Put proper control on the election law and process
  • Confirm the equality between men and women regarding responsibilities within the framework of the family .
  • Include articles to protect children’s rights, the environment, the rights of persons with special needs, and the rights of the elderly.

New report: Violence, corruption and unequal laws keep women from peace processes

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , Categories: Africa, EU, The Balkans, The Middle East, The South Caucasus, UN

The findings from the Iraqi field study show that the US occupation increased secterian thinking within the country and severly crippled women's rights. Photo: Anna Lithander/The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.

Violence, corruption and unequal laws are some of the obstacles that keep women in conflict-torn regions from participating on equal terms with men in peace processes. Another big part of the problem is that the international community gives priority to men for senior positions in peace operations. This according to the new report Equal Power  Lasting Peace made by the Swedish women and peace organization The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.

Equal Power – Lasting Peace is based on field studies made in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq, DR Congo and Liberia. Although the countries and conflicts differ, the patterns are strikingly similar.

In all the regions women and women’s organizations play important roles in resolving conflicts in local communities and in handling everyday life.

But when it comes to formal decision forums the doors are closed for women. This contrary to the statements of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which emphasizes that women must participate on the same terms as men in all parts of peace processes, for the peace to be sustainable.

The exclusion of women is present both within the international missions and negotiating team at national level. Equal Power – Lasting Peace shows that very little has happened, despite the fact that twelve years have passed since Resolution 1325 was adopted.

– Peace Processes that excludes half the population are imperfect. Women’s needs and experiences are made invisible, says Lena Ag, Secretary General at The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.

Common obstacles

Equal Power – Lasting Peace’s survey shows that the most common obstacles for participation that women face are:

  • Legislation and standards
  • Rumours and threats
  • Domestic violence, including sexual violence
  • Poverty and corruption
  • Ignorance of the international community

- As in other policy areas, the male dominance within the peace and security area needs to be broken. It is a question of democracy and a basic condition for sustainable peace processes. It is also important to push for the appointments of more women to key positions within the EU and the UN. How else can the international community credibly argue that equality is important? says Lena Ag.

No female UN Chief Mediator

Examples of the representation of women and men in key positions related to peace and security:

  • At the 24 largest peace negotiations held between 1992 and 2010, only 7,6 percent of the negotiators and 2,5 percent of the mediators were women.
  • The UN has never appointed a female Chief Mediator.
  • 89 percent of the UN’s special representatives and envoys are men.
  • 84 percent of the UN peacekeeping operations are led by men.84 percent of the UN member countries’ UN ambassadors are men.
  • There are only men leading the EU’s CSDP operations (operations under the EU’s common security and defense policy).
  • 2 of the EU’s 10 special representatives are women.

Download:

Equal Power – Lasting Peace, the report

Equal Power – Lasting Peace, summary

Statistics of women and men in key positions within the EU and the UN

Pride and prejudice Belgrade style

Tags: , , , , Categories: The Balkans

Belgrade police and anti-gay rights crowd

The block surrounding the cultural center in Belgrade where the exhibition Ecce Homo was displayed was roped of by police. Many people were gathering, displaying anti-gay rights opinions. Photo: Stina Magnusson Buur/The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.

We received a blog post from Stina Magnuson Buur, working for the Swedish women and peace organization The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation in Belgrade. Yesterday the Gay Pride parade planned to take place in Belgrade on Saturday was banned by authorities citing security concerns. The parade would have marked the culmination of the ongoing Serbian Pride week, where seminars and events on the theme of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons human rights have been taking place.

This is the report from Stina Magnuson Buur:

“There’s a creeping sensation going through my body. I am meeting a friend at a cozy outdoor café around the corner from where I live. Tonight is the opening of the exhibition Ecce Homo, by the Swedish artist Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin (a series of photos incorporating LGBT persons into biblical scenes) at the Centre for Cultural Decontamination in Belgrade. I usually love to go there, it’s a really nice place for activists, with a cozy courtyard, a large showroom and a lovely atmosphere.

Today, my entire block has been fenced off: my street, the street where the cultural center is located and two other streets. The place is literally crawling with “ninja turtles” – police officers with vests, helmets and shields. The whole town center is full of them, there are easily over a hundred just in our neighborhood, and I can count to 10 police officers on horseback riding down the closest main street, in addition to all the officers in cars and on foot.

My friend does not want to go to the exhibition directly when it opens, for fear of being filmed and end up on youtube. Instead we stay for a beer at the café. There’s a large crowd gathering. Someone in the crowd is being interviewed and there are TV cameras and photographers everywhere. A man from the Orthodox Church is making a speech against homosexuals in general and Ecce Homo in particular, and when he’s finished everyone applauds – including all the people at the café.

Two perfectly made-up, smiling women in their 40s are handing out leaflets with the message that the Pride parade must be stopped (which it also has been, after a ban earlier the same day by Serbian authorities citing security concerns).

I feel like I’m being suffocated by all this hate. It’s like a parallel version of my normally so friendly Belgrade neighborhood. People at the café are in high spirits, the man next to us offering everyone roasted almonds, and everyone look perfectly normal. But my friend and I feel like total aliens and I can only think about the staff at the café not caring about the flyers being handed out and that we usually go here me and my family and that the waiters always are so sweet and play with our son. That all these seemingly ordinary people are behind all this hate. That they devote energy to try to hinder other people from making life choices that do not really affect dem. And I wish that football hooligans were the only haters in this world, how much simpler everything would be!

The creeping sensation in my body is escalating and we leave the café. We approach the barricades from another street, without any cafés or crowds and the police officers let us through when I tell them that I live there. There are still ninja turtles everywhere and we feel like all eyes are on us. But we continue to the cultural center. It is packed with people, familiar faces, happy faces and no police officers. I can breathe again.”